Lake Street business owners continue to cleanup, guard buildings after unrest

Dozens of businesses along Lake Street in south Minneapolis have been looted and damaged by rioters since the killing of George Floyd. 

“We’ve been sleeping here,” said Bobby Awaijane, whose family has owned a gas station on the corner of Lake St. and 17th Ave. for 17 years. 

Before they started standing guard 24/7, in Thursday night, looters broke into their store even after they boarded it up with plywood. From home Awaijane says he and his parents watched dozens of people break in, taking what they want and destroying almost everything inside the store. 

“You feel kind of useless; you can’t really do anything about it. You’re just watching the store get destroyed,” Awaijane said. 

He said the next morning when they went to assess the damage, neighbors had already started cleaning up the mess. He says since then, he’s seen an outpouring of support from their community. 

“We have people helping us guard this place from people trying to burn it down and we didn’t even ask them. They came on their own so it’s just a lot of support,” Awaijane said.

Down the street, the manager of a small market on the corner of Lake St. and Park Ave. says he’s been sleeping at the store every night for a week to keep watch. 

“I’m very, very, very tired,” Hussain Aloshari said. 

Across the street from him, Cindy Thompson, who manages a car wash says she and others in the neighborhood are grateful they’re still open. 

“I’m just so happy that we could open because there are so many businesses around here that can’t, and I’m kind of teary eyed about that,” Thompson said. 

She says looters broke a few of their windows and stole air fresheners and wet vacuums. 

Many business owners along Lake Street say despite all of the destruction and chaos in the last week, together, they’ll build a better future. 

“We’re coming back baby, we’re not going to let them get us down. We’re coming back,” Thompson said. 

The Lake Street Council has raised more than $3.5 million to help struggling businesses. Learn more about how to help here.